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                                 by Carole Bugge

On the Riviera that summer they draped mosquito nets over the beds at night
       great billowing shrouds, long and white as sails
She lies, barely breathing, imprisoned beneath endless layers
       swathed like a chrysalis in a gauze cocoon

She longs to call for her mother,
       afraid no sound will penetrate the cascades of translucent material,
thick as the swarms of bugs fluttering around the bare light bulbs
       blundering blindly into the house
       where they are swatted by Marceline, a large blunt woman
       who needs no mosquito netting over her bed, they joked—
       word had spread among the insect community,
       and they knew she was dangerous
to be avoided
like the jellyfish floating
        in the crystalline waters of the Mediterranean,
               hanging just below the surface, pink and translucent,
               their sting as sharp as her mother's tongue that unhappy summer

She watches as her mother wanders onto the porch,
       squinting against the afternoon glare,
               only to return to the house minutes later, shaking her head
At loose ends, directionless, drifting like the jellyfish
       hovering just beneath the surface of the waves,
               hoping a friendly current would sweep her out to sea

She wishes her mother would speak, but she is mute.
       the wake of her grief trailing behind her
               like the fishermen's nets, a thin and delicate mesh of silence
                      trapping her in the past
                              where an empty cradle waits in the corner

She feels her mother's silence between them
       separating, closing her off from her own breath until she feels
               helpless as the flounder feebly flopping on the hard wooden dock
                      gasping for air in the sun's merciless glare

Dusk begins to fall
       Grey clouds of mosquitoes hover above the house, waiting
She gathers the night in her hands and watches,
             listening for her mother's voice to call her to come inside


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